According to the latest Harvard-Northeastern survey, about 19% of American adults own 50% of the country’s firearms while the other half is concentrated in the hands of only 3% of the population. On average, these extremely enthusiastic patriots each own 17 guns. Again, that’s on average!

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The fraction of Americans who own firearms is actually following a declining trend, currently down 10 percentage points since its peak in 1993, according to a 2015 Gallup survey. In the aftermath of the Orlando shootings, CBS News found that 36 percent of U.S. adults either own a firearm personally, or live with someone who does. That might still seem like a heck of a lot for those of you living outside the US, but keep in mind this the lowest gun ownership rate in nearly 40 years.

On the other hand, however, there are now more guns in circulation than ever — 357 million at a population of 317 million, the Washington Post reported. Yes, guns outnumber people in this country. It obviously follows that more guns have concentrated into the hands of fewer people.

Do you actually need more than a dozen rifles to protect your family and freedom?

The Harvard-Northeastern survey included 4,000 people who were not only asked whether or not they own a gun, but how many or what types. The survey participants responded anonymously and the researchers are confident they were reporting truthfully. About 22 percent responded that they, in fact, owned a gun — a lot lower than what other polls have reported. Pew Research, for instance, found 31 percent of American adults own at least a firearm.

Extrapolating the results, the researchers estimate there are 55 million American gun owners, most of whom own an average of just three firearms, and nearly half own just one or two. Then there are the American ‘superusers’ — the premium customers — who own between eight and 140 guns, with about 7.7 million Americans falling into this category.

Deb Azrael, a Harvard researcher and one of the study’s lead authors, said the primary reason why Americans buy various handguns and assault rifles is to protect themselves from the ‘bad guys’. He cites a culture of fear where owning guns and stockpiling them at home lends confidence and makes people feel safer. This is a stark shift in perspective from the 1990s, when the main cited reason for owning a gun was hunting and other activities rather than personal protection, Washington Post’s Cristopher Ingraham said. One can only wonder what forces have driven this kind of shift in mindset considering lethal violence in the US has actually been on the decline.

“The desire to own a gun for protection – there’s a disconnect between that and the decreasing rates of lethal violence in this country. It isn’t a response to actuarial reality,” said Matthew Miller, a Northeastern University and Harvard School of Public Health professor and one of the authors of the study.

This latest survey follows closely in the footsteps of what many experts call the ‘bloodiest mass shooting in modern US history.’ The Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 people and injured over 500 carried a staggering 47 firearms in his Las Vegas hotel suite and two homes, police reported on Tuesday. 

All of these arms were purchased legally by gunman Stephen Paddock, including some high-powered rifles capable of penetrating police armor.

“We mourn for this tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the lost and injured,” said Christopher M. Sullivan, the general manager of Guns & Guitars Inc.

“Mr. Paddock was a customer and purchased firearms from our store; however, all necessary background checks and procedures were followed, as required by local, state and federal law. He never gave any indication or reason to believe he was unstable or unfit at any time. We are currently cooperating with the ongoing investigation by local and federal law enforcement in any way we can,” Sullivan said.

In the aftermath of the Vegas mass murder, the White House insisted that this is not the time to talk about gun control. We disagree. Earlier this week, ZME staff writer Andrei Mihai outlined the current science on gun control which plainly shows legislative measures lead to fewer gun-related fatalities. That’s the point, isn’t it?

Now, we all know that guns won’t magically disappear overnight or anytime soon for that matter. Americans are really too fond of their guns and way too many Congressmen agree with them — either truthfully, or because they’re in the NRA’s pocket. Then there’s the matter of an 18th century basic American right — the 2nd Amendment, which provides the opportunity for every citizen to bear arms in case the British Empire decides to invade its former colony.

So, we all can agree that guns are here to stay in the United States. You want the right to own a gun, that’s fine. But for goodness’ sake, who needs 40 assault rifles? You can own a gun. OK, two. Three? Fine. But let’s agree at a cap. There’s no good reason why a single individual needs as many guns and ammo as a small military company.

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